Sunday finally marked the return of hockey to Winnipeg, but the Montreal Canadiens spoiled the party with a 5-1 victory.
Despite their team coming up short in their season debut, the sold-out crowd inside the 15,004-seat building raised to their feet and furiously applauded the effort of the Jets. The scoreboard became irrelevant as the Manitoba provincial capital reclaimed what it once lost to poor economics.
“I think everyone has taken note of the enthusiasm and the passion for our game,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who was villified in Winnipeg when the last team left. “…We have no reason to believe other than this team will be an absolute success.”
And not only were the fans elated with a 5-1 loss, they couldn’t wait to get in the building. Hours before the drop of the puck, jersey-clad fans packed the MTS Centre arena and chanted “Go Jets Go” in front of an empty sheet of ice.
Despite looking a little overanxious, the game was within reach for the Jets through the first two periods. It was then at the 2:27 mark of the third period that the roof was nearly blown off the cozy arena when Nik Antropov scored the first goal of the season for the Jets.
A surge of momentum followed as Winnipeg poured on the pressure in an effort to tie it, but a controversial interference call on Dustin Byfuglien led to a Yannick Weber power-play goal for the Habs. Down 3-1, the Jets then started to break down, and quick goals from Travis Moen and Max Pacioretty put the game out of reach.
But Jets fans could care less. Hockey is back in Winnipeg!